This article orginally appeared in THE EPOCH TIMES and is reprinted with their permission
OPTIMISM: PARAMOUNT FOR LONGEVITYANDHEALTH
Studies Show Optimism is the most important aging factor.
By James Goodlatte and Kimberly Nelli
The quest for unlimited health and vitality has been fabled by history’s search for “the fountain of youth” and punctuated today through vitamins, health foods, and medicines. Every year brings new ways to supposedly live longer and better, spawning new products and false hope.
Common tips for how to live longer include eating foods high in antioxidants (such as blueberries), taking certain prescription drugs, refraining from smoking, and even drinking wine, but above all, be optimistic. An optimistic attitude is the single unifying factor of the world’s most vital, longest living people that we have been able to recognize.
Two questions on a survey posed to participants in a Dutch study on longevity, led by Erik Giltay, M.D., Ph.D, of Psychiatric Center GGZ Delfland, Delft, the Netherlands, were, 1. “Do you often feel like life is full of promise,” and 2. “Do you still have many goals to strive for?” They concluded that those who answered, “Yes” to these questions were more likely to live a longer and healthier life.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have found similar results. Dr. Hilary Tindle, assistant professor of medicine to the Division of Internal Medicine, found that optimists are less likely to die not only from heart disease, but also from cancer and diabetes. Dr. Tindle’s study follows almost 100,000 postmenopausal women and also found that optimistic women were significantly less likely to die earlier overall.
Optimism was described by Tindle’s team as “Those who expect good rather than bad things to happen.” Dr. Tindle told Reuters News, pessimistic women tended to agree with statements like, “I’ve often had to take orders from someone who didn’t know as much as I did” or “It’s safest to trust nobody.”
To many, optimism sounds too easy or too airy to be true. Cigarettes, wine, food, and exercise are more tangible to us.
But optimism works. And it is an attitude that can be developed and made natural over time. Optimism is free, it’s powerful, and you can use it to enhance your health and longevity starting right now.
AARP.org, the largest membership organization for people over the age of 50, reports on even more research: “A recent study of 500 adults ages 60 to 98 … found that optimism and effective coping styles were the most important factors in aging successfully—not health.”
Since research helps us see the fountain through the fog, perhaps real people in real places can inspire us to take hold of what these studies suggest.
End of Part I
Part II The Top Five Regions For Living Longer and Healthier
Studies suggest that optimism is the most important factor in living longer and healthier.
A recent effort by National Geographic in combination with the National Institute on Aging has uncovered a few special locations around the world that contain extraordinarily high numbers of people who live full of energy, without disease, and past the age of 100 in rates that far exceed anywhere else on the planet.
These very special areas, called Blue Zones, are currently being studied and dissected by experts in conjunction with the Blue Zones project. A book called Blue Zones highlights four pockets in Italy, Japan, the U.S., and Costa Rica while the Web site, BlueZones.com, highlighted an Island in Greece. The formal conclusion is that populations in these areas not only live longer, but they live better.
“An overwhelming majority of them still enjoy life,” reports Dan Buettner, the journalist at the front of the Blue Zones movement. This is radically different from some of pill-popping, hospital, and nursing home statistics so common in other parts of the western world.
Researchers and journalists picked apart virtually everything you can imagine, including foods, friendships, and daily activities, and they asked questions to cleverly gain insight into the centenarians’ perspectives on life. Some very interesting things popped up.
Each Blue Zone ate different foods. In fact, there was very little commonality other than the fact that all foods and drinks were minimally processed, and often picked fresh from their own yard that same day. Also, each culture placed great emphasis on near-daily gatherings with friends and family, which has been supported as a strong health and longevity factor in other research as well. Daily activity, rather than “exercise,” was part of life as they would often walk to a friend’s home, chop their own wood, or bike to the store.
But most interesting, and perhaps most surprising of all, Buettner says, “There’s not a grump in the bunch.” He adds, “These people were extremely positive, which we can associate with their longevity.” Especially considering that these populations ate such different foods, the case for optimism as the greatest common denominator in health and longevity is enhanced.
The people documented in these Blue Zones were truly spectacular examples of optimism. Ushi, age 104, in Okinawa, Japan, “Immediately welcomed you … you could tell that she made everyone happy around her-her family, her friends, and now even strangers.” “She was not worried about getting something in the future or sad that she had missed something in the past.” Kamada and Kamata, two more centenarians from Okinawa, say their secrets to longevity are, respectively, “Not worrying so much about your own problems” and “Enjoy today.” This sounds a lot like what Ekhart Tolle, calls the “Power of Now,” and what fans of yoga everywhere refer to as “being present.”
Marge, age 100, literally hits the ground running every morning. This California resident, whose first goal every morning is to drink six glasses of water during her power-walk, then bikes, volunteers, gardens, and cracks jokes like it’s her job, says her motto is, “A stranger is a friend we haven’t met yet.”
Visiting the Nicoya coast of Costa Rica sheds even more surprising light on the role of optimism, even despite a lack in traditional medical care. Buettner reports that Costa Rica spends “Only 15 percent of what America does on health care, but its people appear to be living longer, seemingly healthier lives than any other country on earth.” “They are so positive,” exclaims one reporter from the Blue Zones project. One hundred and four year old, Panchita, from the Nicoya Coast of Costa Rica, who prepared lunch for her guests on a traditional Indian clay oven, seems to have a “total acceptance” and “unwavering belief” of the circumstances life hands her. Rafaella, age 107, from the Italian island of Sardinia, was asked if she had any advice for younger people and responded, “Life is short. Don’t run so fast you miss it.”
BlueZones.com features an article that states, “Optimism and ‘effective coping styles’ were the most important factor in happiness in aging.” One of the first doctors recruited to help study the Blue Zones project, says plainly, “People who think they’re going to live longer actually do.”
There are probably an infinite number of ways to increase your optimistic outlook. One strategy that simplifies the idea is suggested by Blue Zones, “be likable.” Dr. Nobuyoshi Hirose, one of Japan’s pre-eminent longevity experts, suggests that likable people are more likely to have a social network, frequent visitors, and willing caregivers. Though we may be unsure which came first, optimism and likeability clearly go hand in hand. Dr. Hirose also says that likeable people seem to experience less stress and live purposeful lives, two more factors that tie together all nine lessons found in “The Blue Zone.”